The known universe is estimated to be 13.7 billion years old. This is described in scientific terms as Planck time so named after the German physicist Max Planck (1858-1947). It is commonly theorized that around that [time] the Big Bang occurred causing negative energy and gravity to decrease in a split second while positive matter began to expand. Before Planck time no information is recognized. A black hole or some mysterious worm tunnel may be the cause of all this shin-diggery, we don't know. Astrophysicists currently have no idea what happened before the Big Bang. Beyond that mysterious ground zero may dwell infinitely more universes or multiverse systems.
The Milky Way galaxy is estimated to contain 100-400 billion stars and more than 100 billion planets. It's shaped like a disc. Think really big, really flat pancake.
Our solar system is a gravitationally bound system of the Sun and the objects that orbit it. It formed approximately 4.6 billion years ago from the gravitational collapse of a giant interstellar molecular cloud.
The Sun is approximately 4.6 billion years of age. It is nearly a perfect sphere of hot plasma and is the primary source of Earth's energy.
Earth is approximately 4.5 billions young. According to nebular theory, planetesimals formed by accretion (the accumulation of particles into a massive object by gravitationally attracting more matter) with the primordial Earth taking 10–20 million years to form.
The earliest life forms we know of were microscopic organisms (microbes) that left signals of their presence in rocks about 3.7 billion years old. The signals consisted of a type of carbon molecule that is produced by living things. Sponges were among the earliest animals. While chemical compounds from sponges are preserved in rocks as old as 700 million years, molecular evidence points to sponges developing even earlier. -Smithsonian, naturalhistory.si.edu
"Sponges grow in the ocean. That just kills me. I wonder how much deeper the ocean would be if that didn't happen." -Steven Wright.
Humans are primates and evolved in the last 6 million years on Earth. Homo sapiens are closely related to another group of primate species, the apes. Humans and the great apes of Africa, chimpanzees (including bonobos, or so-called “pygmy chimpanzees”) and gorillas, share a common ancestor that lived between 8 and 6 million years ago. The fossils of early humans who lived between 6 and 2 million years ago come entirely from Africa.
Homo sapiens are a culture-bearing upright-walking species that lives on the ground. We are now the only living members of what many zoologists refer to as the human tribe, Hominini, but there is abundant fossil evidence to indicate that we were preceded for millions of years by other hominins, such as Ardipithecus, Australopithecus, and other species of Homo, and that our species also lived for a time contemporaneously with at least one other member of our genus, H. neanderthalensis (neanderthals). To summarize, five primary groups of humans existed and only one survived: Homo sapiens.
Up until recently humans were very much in the global food chain. We didn't leap to the top of the food chain until around 100,000 years ago. We were hunters and gatherers, and we became really good at it. Most animals at the top of the food chain made it there gradually over millions of years. Humans, however, jumped to the top rapidly. The rest of the food chain was quite literally taken by surprise. When viewed on the history timeline of eons, humans took the top of the food chain position on earth overnight. Humans have been annihilating other species ever since. In short, if the species doesn't serve humans in some way (food, pets, zoos, etc.) then it is in more danger of extinction. This is an ongoing historical fact. In the last 100,000 years life has been getting progressively better for humans but more dangerous for others. Look up how many cows and chickens there are on the planet. Then look at the expendable animals. The numbers are staggering.
Some have theorized the advent of fire and cooking food may have opened the way for the evolution of a smaller intestinal track and a larger brain. Some think extraterrestrial forces intervened with humans and bestowed the intellectual advantage (that is about as plausible as the existence of Bigfoot). Fun but unlikely. The truth is we just don't know what spark set off the next stage in human evolution, read on.
Homo sapiens experienced three major revolutions: the Cognitive Revolution, the Agricultural Revolution, and the Scientific Revolution.
Cognitive Revolution (70,000-30,000 years ago)
The Pleistocene Epoch is commonly defined as the time period that began approximately 2.6 million years ago and lasted until 11,700 years ago. The most recent Ice Age occurred and glaciers covered huge parts of Earth. The Pleistocene Epoch is the first in which Homo sapiens evolved, and by the end of the epoch humans could be found in nearly every part of the planet. In many cases, we walked across the ice where now exists water. Also, the ocean levels were lower because of the massive glaciers. That is why some of the ancient coastal village ruins are now under water.
Early Homo sapiens were hunters and gatherers. In the context of their era, ancient foragers were the most knowledgable and skillful people in history. Their ability to survive in hostile climates and circumstances evolved and improved through the millennia. It is theorized that over hunting is the cause for many animal species extinction. Early humans were most likely not aware or concerned that animals could be annihilated. Humans have destroying animal life for as long as they've been able to.
As we travailed the last major ice age something emerged: Cognition, our mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the five senses. There is evidence that neanderthals existed with Homo sapiens. Perhaps Homo sapiens possessed an evolved cognitive advantage that led to the destruction of the neanderthals. It is theorized that neanderthals could not speak intelligent, truthful, and deceiving words like the sapiens. It is still unknown what destroyed neanderthals. If you take a brief survey of all the many species that Homo sapiens have sent to distinction it would be no shocker to learn we took the neanderthals out.
Animism was the earliest form of religion. Animism is the belief that objects, places and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence. Prehistoric people perceived a "spirit" in everything: humans, animals, plants, trees, rocks, weather systems, etc. "In doing so they developed dualism. In the philosophy of mind, dualism is the theory that the mental and the physical—or mind and body or mind and brain—are, in some sense, radically different kinds of thing." -Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Ancestor spirits or high gods who are presently active in human affairs were absent in early humans. Belief in an afterlife emerged later followed by shamanism and ancestor worship. Dualism took deep root in many religions in the world, Judeo-Christianity not the least of which. Soul and body are central tenants of that belief system. As hard as one may try to find, prove and examine a soul or spirit, alas they fail. That's because spirits most likely do not exist, at least in the definition of bronze-aged theology. That is not an atheistic statement, but it is an agnostic one. It's OK to admit when we don't know something.
Humans imagine things that are real and things unreal. This advanced thinking process led to the domination of Earth. It also led to the world's co-believed myths. People have imagined, in their own image, spirits and gods. Those spirits and gods have always been a reflection of the times and places they are experiencing. Human religion is a direct mirror to the current survival circumstances humans find themselves in.
For early humans, the Sun rising in the morning meant warmth, the safety of the light. The Sun represented good. It is fitting and obvious that the early spirits and gods were sun gods. In contrast, the night was the antithesis to the Sun. Animals and rival humans were potential threats and at night, even more so. The night represented evil; those spirits and gods were imagined in that image.
Agricultural Revolution (10,000-500 years ago)
Agriculture is cultivating the soil, growing crops and raising livestock. 10,000 years ago humans started digging and planting in the ground. The ice age was ending and the farming party was starting. People learned how to cultivate wheat. As my grandmother would say, Oh the bread! Soon humans forgot how to hunt and gather for food. Most of the tribe elders no longer taught their young people the incredible skills of hunting and gathering.
This diet of harvested grains and livestock changed humans and not all for the better. Look at the incredible greed, hoarding and famines that occurred. When crops failed, droves of people starved. The masses no longer knew how to hunt to survive. Though human population ballooned, it is very possible that people ended up working longer hours plowing, toiling, sweating, and slaving more than their hunter gatherer ancestors. Technology has a way of repeating this "hey look, we're smarter but acting dumber" theme throughout history and right up to today. Think artificial intelligence. Humans are gradually making themselves obsolete. More on that later.
As with the cognitive revolution, the agricultural revolution gave birth to new religions. Those religions are reflective of farming and livestock, the things humans relied on for survival. Long before the Bible, there were many human myths of creation and flood stories, grain and animal sacrifice, dying and rising gods, and virgin births. Later, during the Babylonian exile of the 6th century BC, the Hebrew Bible started to take shape. The Bible is full of the same kinds of agricultural motifs. Man believed that he must appeal to the gods of harvest and livestock in order to receive those tasty blessings. Man has been creating gods in his own image for a very long time.
The idea of monotheistic god emerged from the agricultural revolution. When Rome mandated Christianity as its official religion in the 4th century it changed western culture and empirical trajectory. Strangely, though, the trinity is nothing more than a confusing throw back to polytheism. However, the "god man" portion of the trinity a theme throughout history. Home sapiens identify with and indeed fantasize about this anthropomorphic human-god persona.
Scientific Revolution (500 years ago to present)
A drastic change in scientific thought took place during the 16th and 17th centuries. A new view of nature emerged during the Scientific Revolution, replacing the Greek view that had dominated science for almost 2,000 years. Science became an autonomous discipline, distinct from both philosophy and technology, and it came to be regarded as having utilitarian goals. By the end of this period, it may not be too much to say that science had replaced Christianity as the focal point of European civilization. Out of the ferment of the Renaissance and Reformation there arose a new view of science, bringing about the following transformations: the reeducation of common sense in favor of abstract reasoning; the substitution of a quantitative for a qualitative view of nature; the view of nature as a machine rather than as an organism; the development of an experimental, scientific method that sought definite answers to certain limited questions couched in the framework of specific theories; and the acceptance of new criteria for explanation, stressing the “how” rather than the “why” that had characterized the Aristotelian search for final causes. -Encyclopedia Britannica
If you have any misunderstanding about the above paragraph I suggest you research those things. In this scientific age humans are no longer creating humanlike gods external to herself, they are creating actual human gods. I will elaborate later.
Look at the time between the Cognitive and Agricultural periods to the present scientific period. The time it has taken humans to advance is unprecedented in history and that is why we are faster, smarter, and more cunning than any other species we now dominate. It is human history: We are advancing at a staggering step. Everything around us took billions of years to evolve but around 100,000 years ago we sped up and have been speeding up since then.
Humans have had the same physical, intellectual, and emotional abilities for at least 30,000 years. Something happened 500 years ago that accelerated our trajectory. The Dark Ages spanned hundred of years with almost no scientific advancement and then almost overnight we exploded into scientific advancement. What happened? The Renaissance (14th-16th centuries), Protestant Reformation (1517-1648), and the Age of Enlightenment (1715-1789) happened. The massive cultural impact of these movements changed human thinking forever. It changed the power positions of religion and politics.
From the 4th to the 16th centuries, Christianity ruled with an iron fist. And because most of the common people were illiterate, the church only had to produce religious icons, statues, and stained-glass windows in order to communicate with the people. Ponder that for a moment. Icons, statues, stained-glass, and torture devices were the common tool of horror that the lording priests used to fill the congregations with the fear of hell. If the Reformation of Martin Luther did anything positive, it promoted education across the masses. This unavoidably (and ironically) led to more protests and reformations. Each thought and idea reformed into the next. From churches splitting to ideological and political dissension, the people were changing as they gained literacy and knowledge. Some reforming minds chose religion while other open-minded explorers sought out the arts, politics, or the sciences. Through the decades and centuries, each scientific breakthrough led to more and more questioning of the Church's validity.
The Renaissance, Protestant Reformation, and Enlightenment continued to influence Western thought which lead to the American Revolution. In 1607 the Church of England established itself in the English colonies in Jamestown, Virginia. From there the Episcopal Church in the United States of America was established after the American Revolution. It was the first autonomous Anglican Church outside the British Isles. The Episcopal Church was officially separated from the Church of England in 1789 so that American clergy would not be required to accept the supremacy of the British monarch. A similar move to that of Henry VIII when years before he made sure that English clergy would not be required to accept the supremacy of the Pope! Again, this is how religions and governments (politics) operate, playing the same playbook.
Technology is now advancing at an increasing rate. We are developing artificial intelligence, cybernetics, nanotechnology, deep space exploration, enhanced longevity, and others. One positive result of technology is human starvation is disappearing from the planet. No longer do we see droves of people dying from lack of food. There are fewer wars in the world. Medical science has also provided incredible advances. Technology has also put humankind on the verge of overcoming the forces of natural selection.
In the above mentioned revolutions humans have achieved something no other earthly species has: Homo sapiens have created, shared and connected ideas that do not physically exist. Another way to say it: Homo sapiens evolved myths as a central idea. These myths unified the people. The myths kept people in line and in many instances kept them under the rule of religious and empirical leaders. Two primary examples of these imagined constructions of Homo sapiens: Religion and Politics. Even money is a shared and believed myth. Money is some paper, coins, and digital data. The value behind money is not actually real, however. The value is the perceived and believed value. These shared myths have enabled humans to take over the globe. But the shared myth has evolved from religion and politics to gods and politics.
gods in the making
As we reflect on the above past, the real power now belongs to governments and the sciences they fund. By real power I mean real. Religion has been replaced by technology: military tech, medical tech, cyber tech, etc. No longer can world leaders threaten fire and brimstone to control the masses. The idea of advancing a new god myth is predominantly a thing of the past. Since the Reformation, Enlightenment, and Renaissance people now understand that bullshit doesn't cut it anymore as it pertains to actual strength. This doesn't mean that the masses have stopped looking backwards. It simply means that the few innovators continue looking forward. This is also a historical trend. The few control the masses.
Homo sapiens have not given up on the gods they created so many years ago, however. Look at the amazing infatuation we have with superheroes. Companies like Marvel and DC Comics are very successful. The comic book humans who possess superpowers are very similar to the gods of the ancient world. They look humanlike but are more Titan than human under spandex getups. Remember, it has always been human imagination that creates its gods. The good gods "save" people from non-survival.
The ironic full circle is this: humans are becoming the gods they so dreamt of in years past. What is it we so desire to become? Immortal, that's what we want to become. We want beauty, fame, strength and more of it. We're just getting started with plastic surgery, robotic limbs and genetic engineering. Is it vanity? Calling someone else vain in contrast your "humility" is problematic.
Humans already dominate the world. Governments are seeking further domination. Humans also want to dominate near and outer space. Making humans stronger, faster, smarter and immortal is the goal. Scientists are now bravely researching immortality. And why not? Death sucks, right? Humans want to be famous, unique, and adored. Humans want to be gods.
I think I should say here that if it happens in nature, it is of nature. If it is in nature, it is indeed natural. Humans are redefining what is "natural" every day. The idea of "playing God" has come full circle. Scientists are not playing god, they are creating them. This time it isn't a myth but reality. That's human history: we dream it up then aspire to make it reality.
Logically, human gods with enhanced intelligence and super strength gives them at least a fighting chance against the evolving new species on Earth: Artificial Intelligence. Look at the neanderthals and their fate. For that matter, look at the countless other animal species that have gone extinct at the hands of humans. Historically, species with the advantage tend to dominate, enslave and destroy the weaker cousins here on Earth. In the near future, Homo sapiens that are un-enhanced mere mortals may very well go extinct. Survival of the fittest cannot be avoided.